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Mayor Adrian Fenty‘s campaign has launched a new ad—quietly, without announcing it officially—on cable and broadcast TV, attacking D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray‘s record as head of the Department of Human Services in the 1990s.

The tagline is fascinating: “Gray’s not a bad guy. But he was a bad manager. Do we want to go back to that?” Fenty is now seen by many D.C. residents as a good manager, but a bad guy, at least if the results of last week’s Washington Post poll are to be believed. Here, he’s hoping to convince people that what’s important is the manager part. But it’s a bad sign when a candidate has to spend time in an attack ad telling voters the other side isn’t so bad; that’s the kind of thing campaigns do when their own guy is so unpopular they worry about reinforcing the narrative that he’s, well, a jerk.

The other subtext there, of course, is “back to that”—which is a barely disguised warning that Gray would roll back the District to a bygone era. Gray worked for Sharon Pratt Kelly, but Fenty strategists probably wouldn’t mind if voters thought they were talking about another mayor, one whose name starts with M- and ends with -arion Barry.

Watch the ad here:

Gray advisor Mo Elleithee sends over this response:

Well, so much for the new kinder, gentler Adrian Fenty!

We don’t need a lecture on mismanagement from the mayor who gave control of $82 million in city contracts to his frat buddies, who overspent the Summer Youth Employment Program by tens of millions of dollars, and who couldn’t even figure out whether to fire teachers because we had a deficit or give them a raise because we had a surplus. The truth is that when Vince Gray ran DHS, child immunizations went up, infant mortality went down, D.C. had its first comprehensive program to fight AIDS, and we got homeless people out of hotels and into apartments. And he did it while cutting bureaucracy and streamlining operations.

So we’re happy to compare his record of mismanagement and cronyism against Vince Gray’s record of success any day.